Lebanese Government Steps Down Following Port Explosion

Published: 11 August 2020

Hassan Diab PMLebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who said he would step down along with the rest of his cabinet. (Photo: MTV Lebanon, Wikimedia, License)

By Eli Moskowitz

As wider issues of government corruption and negligence have been vocalized by protesters on the streets of Beirut in response to last week’s explosion, the Lebanese Prime Minister announced on Monday evening that he and his cabinet would be stepping down. 

Prime Minister Hassan Diab acknowledged in a speech the more deep seeded issues that have plagued the country long before the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that has left over 200 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.  

“I previously said that the system of corruption is deeply-rooted in all the functions of the state; nevertheless I discovered that the corrupt system is bigger than the state, and that the latter is constrained by this system and cannot confront it or get rid of it,” he said.   

There are currently more questions than answers for why highly explosive chemicals were stored in a Beirut port for six years without adequate safety measures, but the government’s negligence has led to the public’s demand that those responsible be held accountable.  

“God, please punish all those who are behind this disaster,” Karimah Jacque, a mother of three who lives near the port, told OCCRP last week.

“Today we are appealing to the people, to their demand to hold accountable those responsible for this disaster,” said Diab. 

Diab, a former academic who entered office last January, based his pre-election campaign on a promise to deliver a new style of governance that would help take the country out of the worst economic crisis it has endured since its 1975-1990 civil war.  

In his speech, he alluded to the fact that just weeks after the formation of his government, the ruling elite attempted to scapegoat his administration for the country’s “collapse, waste and public debt.” 

“The magnitude of the tragedy is too large to describe; nevertheless, some live in another time; their only aim is to score political points, deliver populist electoral discourse, and demolish the lingering state’s presence,” he said. 

Protesters who have taken the street have not yielded since the Prime Minister’s resignation.  

“The government resignation is not enough,” Ahmed el-Mohamed, a 27 year old protester who had been visibly injured from clashes that have broken out between the police and protesters, told the New York Times

“We have to bring down the president and the speaker of Parliament. It’s a matter of days, and we’ll do it,” he said.